Remarks by Masoom Stanekzai, Head of the Negotiation team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan at First side event of Afghanistan 2020 Conference in Geneva - Segment A: Safeguarding and strengthening human rights and women’s participation

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Her Excellency the First Lady, Honourable co-chairs, Excellencies, Distinguished participants. Assalamu’alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh.  
It is a great pleasure to be taking part in this important event. Let me first of all, echo agreement with what was said by previous keynote speakers and I am committed with my colleagues to consider the asks during their speeches in our table of negotiations with the other side.
Unfortunately, for the past 42 years, the people of Afghanistan have been suffering and they continue to suffer until this day. 
Each day we witness lives being lost, people being displaced, homes and properties destroyed, ordinary Afghans mostly women and children being trapped in fire zones, kidnapped and most dreadfully, some become victims of extra judiciary punishments - killed or even beheaded by terrorist groups. This is one side of the daily reality of the country. This is why we should put a responsible end to this war. 
There are thousands of painful and heart-breaking stories of how Afghans suffer from this war. Most of these stories reveal how deep their wounds are which could have dire and unimaginable consequences – socially, economically and even psychologically especially for women and children who are affected the most and have suffered deeply in different phases of war and violence over this period.
Talking with Taliban under the current complicated environment at national, regional and international levels at a time when we are facing threats from a wide range of terrorist networks, spread of radicalism, growing mistrust and uncertainty in addition to the impact of COVID- 19, and more importantly the narrow minded world vision of Taliban, is a difficult and bumpy road. 
But this is the surest way to achieve peace and by continuing a meaningful discussion and talks with the Taliban make progress and achieve a common goal for our country’s future. 
Given these realities, managing peace talks needs patience, caution and most importantly a collective effort in the most effective way possible. It is important, for example, to assess and examine the conditionality reflected in the US – Taliban agreement, if undermined, it will have direct impact at the negotiating table. I believe rushing without reaching a comprehensive ceasefire and peace agreement where human rights, rights of women, and other vulnerable groups are ensured as reflected in chapter two of our constitution, could end up to a situation where Afghanistan may once again descend into a new cycle of violence and chaos with the potential to threaten global peace and security.    
Moreover, long term and sustained peace is not possible without ensuring the rights of all Afghans especially women and minorities. We all know that since the fall of the Taliban regime, how hard women fought for their rights and what ordeals they had to accept and endure to achieve this level of progress. They are now worried, for the right reasons, of losing these hard wins.  
As such, we believe, as all of our national and international partners do, that sustainable peace in Afghanistan will not be achieved without active and meaningful engagement and participation of women with their voices heard and inputs incorporated in any peace agreement and in the end-state. 
Victims of war and returned refugees is another increasingly large part of our population. Any future agreement must ensure that their wounds are healed, their voices are heard and their future is protected. This requires comprehensive, whole of government and nationally driven and mobilized and internationally supported programs. 
Afghans hoped that after the 29 February deal between US and Taliban and subsequent release of prisoners and start of peace talks, violence will reduce in the country. Unfortunately, that did not materialize and indeed quite the opposite happened. The recent increase in violence in Helmand, Kandahar as well as in the north and north - east of the country not only took many lives, but also caused forced displacement of thousands of Afghans adding to the many miseries they already suffered. Again, those mostly affected by these consequences were women. 
Fortunately, today there is a collective voice in support of women participation in peace talks starting with the leadership of the Afghan government especially His Excellency the president and the First Lady as well as women leaders, civil society activists and political leaders, the UN and our international partners. They all call for women participation at all stages of peace process from the planning to negotiation to implementation. They are true agents of change and loud voices for the human rights, the rights of victims and the dignified return and reintegration of refugees.
I am proud of the very active and leading role of women in the negotiating team. As most of you are familiar with them, they are highly proactive, capable and courageous women who come from the roots of the Afghan society and are closely connected with women and civil society networks both at the center and other parts of the country. Most importantly they not only fight for women rights, but for the rights of all Afghans including vulnerable groups. Indeed, they fight for justice, for equality and for sustained peace. 
The presence of women at the negotiating table is an asset and show the face of a new Afghanistan that has changed. Taliban is seeing this change and understand that they are facing with a different country than they had seen or imagined. 
I will not talk about the details of what they have done as they will speak for themselves, but their rights cannot be sustained and ensured unless they are clearly protected in the constitution and in the final peace agreement with enforcement and guarantees in place. As such, continued international support is required to enable institutionalization of the rights and the transition from conflict to sustainable peace.
Moreover, violence will not end in Afghanistan unless the problem of Afghan refugees is dealt with properly and sustainably. They were, they are and they will be the target of recruitment by the terrorist networks or those who abuse them for continued instability in Afghanistan. Therefore, planning for two very important aspects of reintegration into normal life each; refugee return and reintegration and demilitarization of society at village levels should start immediately and must be supported and this should be part of the agenda of the discussion. 
Afghanistan needs more support during the phase of transition and transformation from violence to peace especially in the process of preserving and building on the valuable achievements of over the past 19 years. We should not repeat the past experience that caused so much suffering to the Afghan people. Today, once again, we are facing with a very difficult test. We must prevent at all cost the repeat of history and do not allow once again, Afghanistan and the world, for that matter, to be trapped into vicious circle of a new game, but reach a sustained peace where Afghanistan becomes home to all Afghans, a good neighbor to the region and a dependable partner to the world.  
I thank all of our partners for their support and hard efforts to help us achieve peace and prosperity in Afghanistan. 

Thank you very much